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DrEva Namusoke

When asked by OKayafrica to describe his 2016 debut feature film, director Perivi John Katjavivi described The Unseen as ‘a collection of philosophical musings on what it means to be alive in independent Namibia.’ The black and white film follows three young people as they inhibit metaphorical and physical ‘unseen’ spaces – the dark bedroom, the street corner, the artist’s mind. With three storylines that show different lives and challenges, Katjavivi uses the characters to engage with philosophical issues against the backdrop of a modern Namibia. Interspersed with images of sparse landscapes and colonial photographs, the film covers topics ranging from globalisation to nihilism, art to identity.

Antonio David plays Marcus, an African American actor who has travelled to Namibia to play the lead role in a historical epic. In one of the most captivating moments in the film, Marcus engages in a debate with a white Namibian about cultural appropriation, with the two men sparring over the ownership of stories. Marcus’ position as a black American, contrasted with that of the white African offers an interesting twist on debates that are occurring in artistic spaces today.

Senga Brockerhoff plays Sara, a depressed young woman in acute crisis, sequestered in her room and living off tinned pineapple. Sara spends her time alone in the dark, visited by a revolving door of people t ...

When asked by OKayafrica to describe his 2016 debut feature film, director Perivi John Katjavivi described The Unseen as ‘a collection of philosophical musings on what it means to be alive in independent Namibia.’ The black and white film follows three young people as they inhibit metaphorical and physical ‘unseen’ spaces – the dark bedroom, the street corner, the artist’s mind. With three storylines that show different lives and challenges, Katjavivi uses the characters to engage with philosophical issues against the backdrop of a modern Namibia. Interspersed with images of sparse landscapes and colonial photographs, the film covers topics ranging from globalisation to nihilism, art to identity.

Antonio David plays Marcus, an African American actor who has travelled to Namibia to play the lead role in a historical epic. In one of the most captivating moments in the film, Marcus engages in a debate with a white Namibian about cultural appropriation, with the two men sparring over the ownership of stories. Marcus’ position as a black American, contrasted with that of the white African offers an interesting twist on debates that are occurring in artistic spaces today.

Senga Brockerhoff plays Sara, a depressed young woman in acute crisis, sequestered in her room and living off tinned pineapple. Sara spends her time alone in the dark, visited by a revolving door of people trying to help her but failing to understand her mental state. Hers is the quietest of the three stories, told as much using light and mood as through speech.

Matthew Ishitile’s Anu is arguably the most captivating of the three characters. Anu is an aspiring rapper, engaged in that most universal of young peoples’ activities – the hustle. The conversations Anu participates in are at once the most informal and philosophical in the film. When Anu is sitting on the street with some contemporaries and fielding their questions about his ties to the neighbourhood – questions about his identity essentially – the film feels most like a documentary in its style. Anu appears the most rootless of the three, trying to build a career for himself in a Namibia that is outward-facing yet still grappling with its brutal colonial past.

Beyond the poignant images and restless desert winds, The Unseen is at its heart a film about conversations many of us have had. Conversations between lovers in the small hours. Conversations with old friends and new. Conversations about secret fears and sacred hopes. In this sense, it is a very human story, driven by characters who live in unseen spaces but nevertheless carve out paths for themselves.

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